Thursday, March 5, 2015

Change the World, with Priority Parenting

How's that for a title? But I honestly think when we can change the world, one family at a time.  One heart at a time.

This has been an interesting week.  We got back from Disneyland, and it was honestly amazing to be with my family, creating fun memories.  But, while we were there, my littlest one and I were sick.  Coming back, I thought we would get better, but not so much.  Now we know that he has walking pneumonia, and that I'm lucky enough to have a Dr. who will just call in a Rx when I know I need help too.

Being productive while sick is tricky.
Needless to say, time to quilt or be creative is almost laughable.  I've barely been able to do the bare minimum around here.  But... I have been able to think. (A blessing and a curse really).  And choices in parenting have really been on my mind.  There are days when I feel successful, and there are days when I feel like I've worked so hard, and yet, I didn't have a meaningful moment with my family.

As I was driving my cherubs to and fro, we were listening to a General Conference talk by L. Tom Perry called Finding Lasting Peace and Building Eternal Families.  As I was listening, this quote struck a cord with me:

We must carefully continue to evaluate our performance as parents. The most powerful teaching a child will ever receive will come from concerned and righteous fathers and mothers. Let us first look at the role of the mother. Listen to this quote from President Gordon B. Hinckley:

“Women who make a house a home make a far greater contribution to society than those who command large armies or stand at the head of impressive corporations. Who can put a price tag on the influence a mother has on her children, a grandmother on her posterity, or aunts and sisters on their extended family?

“We cannot begin to measure or calculate the influence of women who, in their own ways, build stable family life and nurture for everlasting good the generations of the future. The decisions made by the women of this generation will be eternal in their consequences. May I suggest that the mothers of today have no greater opportunity and no more serious challenge than to do all they can to strengthen the [home]” (Standing for Something: 10 Neglected Virtues That Will Heal Our Hearts and Homes [2000], 152).

These simple statements share the truth, that parents influence the world.  When we, as a country, as a world, focus on creating strong families, we have a HUGE influence for good. The things we teach our children, go on for generations.  On the flip side,  the things we neglect to teach our children, will be lost.

It reminded me of an article that I had read a few years ago from Julie Beck,  Nourishing and Protecting the Family.   Reading this article is a definite must, but I'll share a simple insight from it.  Parenting cannot be what is left over at the end of the day.  We have to prioritize, decide what will benefit our families most, schedule those things, reserve energy for those things, and let everything else find the left over moments.  I think too often, I have let parenting just happen, instead of making and creating teaching moments, I have waited for them to be presented to me.

When I first heard of this, I felt humbled.  I was not doing this.  I was definitely doing the best I could in the moment. But I was more  of a crazy mom running around.  At the time, I had 4 kids, 3 in different schools, and 1 kid in preschool (does that count as 4 kids in 4 different schools?).  I was trying to give each of my kids the best situation for them in that moment.  One kid at the junior high, one at a Charter school best suited for their abilities, one at the elementary school, and one at preschool.  We had just moved, buses for 2 of the kids weren't a possibility.  I spent, bare minimum 2 hours driving my kids to school and back, each day.  Plus there was piano, gymnastics, soccer, etc... I was trying to give my kids the best.  Catering to their needs, giving all I could.  Working hard during the day while they were gone, so I could get it all accomplished by driving time.

BUT....I was exhausted.  By the time I got home from the drive, I was beat.  And often, I would run upstairs once they got home and take a 10-15 minute nap.  Then I would run and get dinner ready, then start driving again to take them to their night time activities.

Yep.  I was there.  We were doing stuff.  I was trying hard.  But, was it what they needed?  So, I changed my thinking.  I needed to change my priorities.  Each day I got exhausted, it's just the truth. So, I started reserving some time before the carpool, to take the 10-15 minute nap, so I wasn't falling asleep on the drive.  Did that cut into my time of getting laundry done, and dishes, and budgeting, and church duties, and all the other to do's?  Yep. But did my laundry need me to be awake?  Or do my kids?  I was reserving my best work for my chores, and not for my children.

Now enter, priority parenting. I am not perfect at this, but I keep working on it.  There are important things I want to teach my kids.  Are they just going to learn it by osmosis? Or do I actually have to put some effort into it.  Parenting can't be something that just happens, I have to plan for it.  What I have noticed, when I am successful at planning for this, I feel happy.  I accomplish the things I need to.  It isn't harder.  There isn't more to do.  I don't feel more overwhelmed. Things just work.

Each family will want to prioritize different things.  But, in our family these are our priorities:

1. Teach the gospel.  Yes, I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, but I think all people need to make a special effort to teach children their beliefs about God.  Love, respect, morals, kindness, obedience, honesty.  There is so much we all can gain by making gospel study an important part of our day.

2. Be there.  Not everyone can be a stay at home mom.  But I can.  For me, and our family, I know the best thing for us, is for me to be at home, to be there to teach and nurture our children.  Not every family has the same chance.  I haven't always felt strongly about being a stay at home mom, but I have seen the difference this can make in a family.  This has been a serious blessing for our family.

3.  Eat Homemade Dinner Together.  There's a couple things here.  Eating dinner provides a time to chat, discuss the things of the day, to slow down a bit.  But, back it up a bit.  Making a homemade dinner does a couple other things.  It teaches children how to...make dinner, they will need that someday.  It also teaches the importance of nutrition, and working together.  There's lots of good things here, just by simply making a dinner and eating it together.

4.  Make Learning a Priority-  Make a time each day to teach your child something.  Maybe it's reading.  Maybe math.  Maybe they are in high school, and they need to learn to drive.  Whatever it is, make time for it. Let your kids know that learning is important, and actually FUN.  My biggest plug here is, it doesn't have to take tons of time.  5 minutes here, 10 minutes there.  But mindfully making the time to learn makes a difference.

5.  The Purpose of the Task is to Strengthen the Relationship-  I have this on my wall.  This helps me remember to change my focus.  The point of parenting isn't to get stuff done.  And accomplish all sorts of things, it's to strengthen the relationship.  It's to learn.  It's to grow.  I have to remind myself of this ALL THE TIME.

6. Listen- Take the time to listen to your kids.  Tuning out is easy.  But tuning in can be one of the biggest rewards.  Kids say amazing things, and they share their hearts. We have to listen when it's inconvenient, so our kids know they can trust us to listen when it is most important.

7. Let them See you have other Priorities-  I know this seems weird.  But, kids need to know the world doesn't revolve around them.  And they need to see you have interests in things unrelated to them.  I believe kids need to see mom/dad wanting to learn and grow.  They need to know the world continues to be interesting even when you get OLD.  Of course, these interests don't take over your life.  It's one of the priorities...but balanced.   I know for me, this is quilting. And photography.  And digital arts.  And decorating.  The thing I love about it, is I can get my kids involved with me.  My husband works with wood.  In these times where we get to do what we love, we can share our skills with our kids.  We grow.  Our kids grow.  And we all have fun together.

These are just a portion of the things I think we need to do as a family.  Each family should come up with their own priorities, but most importantly, I think we need to change our focus to purposeful priority parenting (alliteration rocks).  When we parent with a purpose, we can make a huge difference in the lives of our children.  That difference can be felt for generations. Let's not just spin our wheels, let's put some grips on them, and go somewhere.

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